The phrase “buyer persona” gets tossed around within pretty much any marketing course, articles, and other educational materials. Many businesses might assume that everyone already has one, knows about it and has put it to use.
Even existing businesses have to redefine the portrait of their audience from time to time, not to mention newbies who are just about to create their go-to-market strategy.
A buyer persona is an abstract depiction of the ideal customer, founded upon both qualitative and quantitative data from market/competitor research and existing customer profiles.
Abstraction does not imply generalization – the more detailed the buyer persona portrait is, the more tangible the results should be. This ideal customer profile will include demographics, behavioral patterns, pains/challenges, goals, and more. Yet, generating a buyer persona is not about describing the business’s potential purchasing audience, but about generating a set of insights that can be used by marketing, sales, and product departments to make informed decisions and smarter investments.
After making an initial market assessment, determining buyer personas is the next logical step in defining marketing, product, and the overall business strategy. After all, business and product development, as well as marketing activities, all come from knowledge about the target audience. It is the buyer personas that help businesses decide:
where to guide product development,
what kinds of content to create,
how to follow up on leads,
how to deal with everything related to customer acquisition and retention.
The end result of defining the target persona is to get a share of attention from high-value visitors, attract relevant leads, and facilitate their conversion and retention process. NetProspex published a case study reporting that their target persona creation efforts led to a doubling of the number of page views per visit, a 900% increase in site visit duration, and a 171% spike in marketing ROI.
Buyer personas can drive many essential processes across the company:
- Product development can rely on buyer persona insights when crafting product roadmaps. Target customer profiles reveal what the audience needs from the service or product, allowing development teams to prioritize product alterations and learn about any bigger changes that have to be made to the offering.
- Marketers employ buyer personas to improve marketing strategies and tactics. From keyword research to ad copy to external content placement decisions, marketers use persona insights to create the most effective marketing and promotional strategies for business.
- By learning about potential customers’ pain points and challenges, sales teams can also use this information to polish their sales pitch and understand which product/service aspects to highlight.
- Using details from buyer persona profiles, customer support teams can get better training to enhance the service they provide by knowing in advance about the range of problems and challenges the customers are facing.
In marketing terms, insights from defining buyer personas are used to craft more relevant messaging, tailor content strategy based on the persona’s buyer’s journey, and create highly focused and more personalized brand experiences. Buyer personas help marketers better understand their customers (and prospective customers) to unveil what it is that makes them tick and choose one brand or solution over another.
Every aspect of marketing should benefit from awareness of the persona profile: email, digital, content, social, and the rest. But how do marketers use these insights exactly?
Better customer segmentation: marketing to everyone is no good for business. Even if there is a fetched up definition of the target audience, buyer personas can add essential details that will empower the marketing strategy and bring in more qualified leads.
Personalized brand experience: with deeper knowledge about the potential customer’s pain point, marketers can create more targeted messaging, more efficient content delivery, and tailored offerings.
Identifying where high-value leads are: content production is only the tip of the marketing iceberg – distribution and reach are equally (if not more) important. The buyer persona profile should also mention where this particular crowd “hangs out” to provide insight into which channels and platforms to target with the highly focused content.
- Cross-marketing alignment: to maintain alignment across various marketing teams, marketers can always go back and revisit defined buyer persona profiles to make sure their efforts are meeting customer needs.
Before gathering information, it’s important to define what peculiarities the profile (some refer to it as a buyer persona template) should embrace. From demographic data to values, any piece of the puzzle will help marketers get a clearer idea of the “perfect” customer.
Initially, marketers tend to give their buyer persona a name and a fictional avatar (photo), and then fill in the following details:
This is the most basic level of data that should be included in the buyer persona profile.
- Age/Gender (try to be as precise as possible here as this may guide copywriting and design teams towards using the right language and style)
- Level of income (including annual income)
- Location (urban/suburbs or actual city/country)
- Family status (especially important for B2C consumer brands)
- Level of education (particularly important for content marketing teams)
Both B2B and B2C companies should pay attention to this part as they often have to determine whether they target decision-makers or actual product or service users.
- Job title and level (manager, professional, specialist, etc.)
Psychographics relate to the persona’s values, standpoints, and goals. This is an important part of the profile as people are increasingly insisting that companies share their values, express their opinion, and join global conversations. Edelman research shows that 65% of consumers claim that a brand’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on whether they choose to stay with the service/product; 33% admitted to already withdrawing from a brand that failed to meet their expectations.
- Professional/personal goals
- Beliefs and values (for instance, for US businesses, it may be important to know whether their buyer persona is a Democrat or a Republican, religious or not, conservative or liberal, etc.)
Pain points and challenges
This section is the one marketers and other teams should pay the most attention to. Only by learning about customer problems and obstacles can a company develop and offer the most relevant solution.
- Biggest struggles and pain points
- Obstacles to overcoming the challenges they are facing
- Irrational/rational fears
Influences and information sources
To identify the buyer’s journey of the ideal customer, discover who they listen to, who they trust, and on which platforms they look for solutions. This information is a valuable source to guide influence marketing, communication, PR, and ad and content placement efforts.
- Preferred blogs, social networks and websites
- Favorite media (digital and print)
- Influencers and thought leaders they trust and look up to
- Favorite events, conferences (online or offline)
The last section has to reveal how the target persona makes buying decisions. These insights will amplify the buyer’s journey and sales, as well as helping digital teams to define trigger events.
- The persona’s role in the purchase decision-making process
- Potential lifetime cycle (how frequently do they buy the product or service?)
- What stops them from making a purchase?
Once it’s clear what information should be gathered, it’s time to uncover how and where to find it. Obtaining enough information to determine the target audience goes in two directions: market research and existing customer data.
Carry out customer interviews
Existing customers can like the idea of being interviewed by a brand they use and have a close affinity to, especially if they get extra perks – a discount, a gift, special content, and so on. Asking former customers may also be potentially helpful as they can provide insight into why they withdrew from the product/service and which solution they are using now. The use of site forms and questionnaires can help marketers embrace a larger audience of leads and those who simply follow the brand on social media or read the blog – this may help uncover what stops them from taking the final step and converting into buyers.
Get insights from the sales team
Sales teams speak to customers and high-potential leads all day. So, there may be a thing or two they can share with marketers about the qualitative part of the buyer persona profile – customers’ pain points, challenges, obstacles, goals, and values.
Gather insights from business/digital data
Google Analytics as a starter can be a source of invaluable information about existing and potential customers. Topping up digital analytics with customer relationship management tools and other tech-driven analytics platforms can educate and offer insights about customers’ interests, habits, behavioral patterns, and more.
Combining Google Analytics insights (this GA guide can come in handy when looking for audience data from the Google service) along with Facebook Audience Insights data (this post will walk you through some of the steps) can also cover some parts of the research process.
By looking at audience insights from competitor websites that share the same ideal customer profile, there are valuable lessons to learn. Market research can offer a great deal of data to uncover audience patterns that will enrich the buyer persona profile.
This side of gathering data is more tech-savvy, so external tools are an essential part of this aspect of buyer persona definition.
To avoid jumping from tool to tool to depict this exercise, we’ll walk you through the market research steps mainly using our own SEMrush tools as they cover the full cycle of this process.
Step # 1: Explore the audiences of the biggest industry players
As a starting point for discovering what audiences the largest industry players are attracting, dive into the niche and try to better understand the target audience.
Simple common sense, industry knowledge and rankings, as well as Google search can help determine the top competitors.
In SEMrush’s case, use Market Explorer to identify the biggest industry domain within the country of business, and the tool will automatically determine the domain’s industry and “build” a market overview.
The overview shows a list of the biggest market players within a given location.
One at a time, choose websites from the list to get data on the audience’s average age and gender (male vs. female in percentage points).
Step # 2: Discover the in-market audience interests
Facebook’s Audience Insights can uncover audience interests, given there is a list of emails to upload to the tool so that it finds key characteristics of this lookalike audience.
The In-Market Audience Interests table (Market Explorer) will also give you an idea of related topics the shared audience is interested in. This can be valuable data for building up the parts of the buyer persona profile dealing with their interests to fill in the puzzle.
By uncovering what the audience is really interested in (in interviews, people don’t always share the whole truth), marketers can:
- determine new partnerships and collaborations with resources and domains in related areas,
- add special offers to the product,
- make design and CTA tweaks in ads and across the site.
Step # 3: Identify audience overlaps with sources from within (or related to) the industry
This step will help verify how much the audience of the potential partner or competitor overlaps. Once there is an overlap in unique visitors with a competitor’s website, this implies that the audience will probably be interested in the services/products offered by the business in question.
The Audience Insights report within the Traffic Analytics tool shows how many unique visitors browse both potential partners’ and competitors’ websites – the higher the overlap with the competitor’s domain, the more the partnership should be considered.
Step # 4: Find out how the target audience finds the competitors’ sites
Traffic Analytics’ Traffic Journey report reveals where exactly competitors get their traffic from.
This step will help determine whether competitors’ audiences engage with social media, PPC ads, or perform a simple Google search.
The report can also verify exactly where competitors’ referring traffic comes from. Referral traffic sources will uncover which sites the audience visited before clicking the link to the competitor’s site. These external sources can be used and exported to see which sites are worth building strong partnerships or collaborations with to get a larger portion of the target audience.
How to use this data in the future
Following the steps outlined within the existing customer and market research insights section, the very last step is to put the research findings to use. Amalgamating all of the data will help to identify patterns and similarities from interview answers, sales team feedback, and competitor insights. And from these commonalities, a buyer persona’s portrait should become clear – all that’s left to do is to document all the findings and share these personas with the rest of the company.
Having insights into buyer persona profiles can amplify the company’s marketing strategy, given there is a tailored customer journey (or buyer’s journey) map for each one.
The best way to optimize potential customers’ experience and smoothly guide them through the journey is to place emphasis on content marketing efforts – the stronghold of any digital marketing efforts.
Using this easy-to-use matrix to define topic ideas and content types for each buyer persona at a particular step of the buyer’s journey can enhance how the company approaches content marketing and the overall digital marketing decisions and tactics.
Now, developing upon this matrix is a challenge of its own, and these comprehensive guides on content marketing strategy and SEO copywriting will provide the right context and tools for maximizing content that matches the buyer persona with the customer journey.
Knowing who the ideal customer is and who should be buying the given service/product is a staple of any marketing strategy. Buyer persona definition is one of the essential first steps towards making better business, product, and marketing decisions and investments. And instead of guessing, take the time to adopt a data-driven approach towards creating buyer persona profiles to implement more strategic, targeted, and successful marketing practices.